BEMIDJI -A $13.8 million bonding request from BSU and a proposal to raise the state minimum wage are on the front burner for Bemidji-area legislators in the legislative session that started Tuesday.

In a press conference, Gov. Mark Dayton praised the efforts of local politicians in supporting the BSU request at the Capitol, but said legislators across the state are competing to get their own projects in the final 2014 bonding bill too.

“Everybody else (is) doing about the same to get a result in keeping with what they need as well,” he said.

Dayton also said part of the state’s budget surplus could be used to make a larger bonding bill that included more projects. Although the BSU request to remodel or demolish several campus buildings was included in a list of projects Dayton thinks should receive bonding money, Bemidji Carnegie Library’s request for $800,000 to help renovate and move the building did not make his list.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said he’s talked to members of the House bonding committee about the Bemidji Carnegie Library’s request.

“I’m going to do what I can to see the Bemidji Carnegie gets some funding,” he said. “However, we may be looking at some alternatives, too.”

State Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, was confident BSU’s request would make it into the final bill and called supporting the request his “highest priority.” Whether or not BSU gets the full amount of their request depends on the outcome of negotiations with Republicans, Saxhaug said. Although the DFL controls both the House and Senate, the bonding bill requires a supermajority of votes in both bodies to pass, meaning at least some GOPers will need to support it.

“As strange as it seems, it’s going to somewhat depend on the minority,” Saxhaug said.

Persell thought the entire BSU request would be funded, based on the amount of preparations BSU planners had put into the project.

“We’re looking for things that are ready to go,” he said. “President (Richard) Hanson and his staff have positioned themselves to look good.”

Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, said a request for funding from the Red Lake School District would likely make it into the final bill.

“It’s going to be in the Senate side, it is in the House side, the Governor said he would sign off on it,” he said. “Things could happen, but I think it’s going to go through.”


Upcoming legislation over raising the state minimum wage from $6.15 an hour will also likely grab headlines this spring. Last year, before time ran out on the session, the House passed a bill raising it to $9.50 an hour for large businesses and the Senate passed a version that raised it to $7.75 an hour.

Persell said it was likely a wage increase will become law this time around, and predicted the final number will be somewhere between $8.50 and $9.50 per hour.

Erickson said the final number would likely be about $8.25 or $8.50, but cautioned the exact increase is yet to be determined.

“I don’t know where that number’s going to end up,” he said. “I’ve heard different rumors.”

Saxhaug said the final increase wouldn’t be as high as the one his opposite numbers in the House agreed on last year.

“I don’t think that it’s going to be $9.50,” he said. “I think that it’ll be somewhat lower, but it’ll be a substantial increase over (current state minimum wage).”

Saxhaug said the wage should be increased to somewhere between $8 and $9.

Persell also said he was helping to author a bill that would repeal a tax on farm implements that was implemented in 2013.

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